When Suleiman, the Magnificent, witnessed the completion of the Suleymaniye Mosque in 1557, he looked out from the waters of the Golden Horn to the grandeur and grandeur of the then capital of the Ottoman Empire, and he must have had a shower of well-being. What he did not dream of was that in the same place, almost 450 years later, hordes of tourists from all over the world still feel the same chill, when from the hills along the waterways the muezzins begin to pray and the call from the thousands of buildings , Walls and parks of the metropolis echoes. During his 46-year reign - longer than any other ruler of Ottoman history - he often wandered through the gardens and halls of Topkapi Palace. His gaze turned to the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea and right to Asia , left to Europe. What he did not dream of was that nearly 450 years later, hordes of tourists from all over the world would be fascinated by the sight of two worlds, bundled together in one city.
As we, my lovely companion and I, stand at the jetty of Eminömü in this pre-Christmas period and throw our first view of the Galatabrücke, the Golden Horn on the left and the Bosphorus on the right, a pleasant shower flows through us. Finally we are here. It was not so easy to get into the city, the trip from the airport to the old town took about two hours thanks to traffic jams.
In addition to the Turkish from all throats you can hear pretty much horns anyway. The city has an estimated 15 million inhabitants, and sometimes it seems to me, even 15 million cars. Mobility is part of the Turkish soul and a matter of honor. It used to be horses, today it's BMW. Bicycles on the other hand you rarely see, because a bell makes no noise. Drills, jackhammers, iron saws, concrete mixers and sledgehammers on the other hand make their hearts leap for joy. Noise is life. Five times a day, the muezzin sings to the greatness of Allah and His Prophet, and the souls of the faithful stand for a moment at the bus station for ever to escape the bustle. And the fog horns of the ferries that connect Istanbul's urban districts mingle with the sacred songs the wind takes over to carry them over the rooftops, the gardens, backyards and bazaars, or simply where they want to go.
This is the sound of ancient Constantinople before the sun goes down, after which we retire to the cold of the room. On the third floor above a doner kebab, with radiant heater in front of the bed, it can be sustained well. In any case, this little room makes a lot, the decor reminds one of the early James Bond films from the 1960s. Oh yes, James Bond and Istanbul. I always think of the city with love greetings from Moscow. To the secret hiding place under the Russian consulate, to the dejected Bulgarians in Hagia Sophia, to the journey of Sean Connery on the Bosporus. Fantastic scenes, never forgotten. How unforgettable will our week be in this world metropolis?
The next day makes us realize how great the location of our doner kebab really is. In about ten minutes we stand between the Blue Mosque and the aforementioned Hagia Sophia, and the sight provides for the next comforting shower. It's actually one of the greatest places I can imagine in the world. On the one hand, the former largest church of the Byzantine Empire (yes, this building is not a mosque, but was designed as a church and completed). The interior with its columns, the oversized dark green tablets with the golden Arabic signs, the tour on the first floor with only more views of the surroundings. And on the other side the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque. The name comes from the blue and white tiles that decorate the dome and the upper part of the walls. It is perhaps the most beautiful mosque I have ever seen. In addition, it has another special feature: unlike other mosques, it has six minarets. Only in Mecca does the el-Haram mosque and the Kaaba house more minarets in the center, currently there are nine.
We move on. The Grand Bazaar with its winding alleys, the market criers, the fruit, vegetable and spice merchants, the blacksmiths, the tea shops, the carpet vendors ... a universe of its own, in the center of the Eski Bedesten, the old cloth hall. For hours you can get lost in the corridors and courtyards. A fad taste sticks in our throat but - the Turkish barkers are very penetrating and very offensive. But that is not half as bad as the fat German woman who goes on a discovery tour with her husband. When she hears how I speak German with my companion, she asks us seriously: "Are you also on the ship?" Sure we are. In Istanbul there are hardly any German tourists ...
Then it finally goes to another, smaller ship. With one of the innumerable ferries we drive over the Bosporus over to Üsküdar, and thus also over from Europe to Asia. Before we arrived, I had taken this alleged contrast between East and West on the Bosphorus as a cliché, I had thought that so obvious differences within a city could not exist. But when we leave the ferry, behind us are the skyscrapers and residential complexes of Beyoglu and Besiktas. But ahead of us is Asia. The difference is enormous. It's even busier, more lives ahead of us. But there are also more natives, more headscarves, more conservatives, more Burkamiezen. Less tourism. In a small fish restaurant we eat fresh anchovies with salad, it is fantastic. When we leave the fish shop and turn right, we are between tons of fresh fruit and vegetables. In addition to the usual suspects of cabbage, grapes and strawberries are figs, pomegranates and sugar melons. Eggplant hanging in round slices as Girladen in front of the stalls. In addition, some fish stare blankly into the air. Only the unfolded, deep red gills bear witness to the recently existing life. Green, black and red olives are sold kilowise, vine leaves tied into packages. Turkish sweets such as Baklava, Lokum and Halva are on offer. Life on the markets, on the street. Life that hardly exists in the West anymore.
Back in the old town in the evening, near our accommodation. Also in our neighborhood a long street, lined with vegetable shops, cafes, restaurants, hookahs.
It is eaten, drunk, smoked hookah and played backgammon. Lots of life, wherever the eye looks.
A city that lies by the sea is blessed. Istanbul is located on two seas. The Bosphorus brings the water and the commodity world of the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara brings everything the Aegean and thus the Mediterranean has to offer on goods, and then there is this small sea in the middle of the city, called Golden Horn.
This gives you the chance - no matter where you are in Istanbul, standing, sitting or lying - to see either a corner or an entire broadside of blue wind. With all the trimmings (fishermen, yachts, sailors, boardwalks), it also offers quite exclusive forms of public transport. Ferries hustle and bustle between the districts of Istanbul like buses, and although these transfers rarely last more than 30 minutes, they lead to extremely different worlds.
It always smells a bit like the sea, even if we walk through narrow streets within the old town. Especially when we visit the Topkapi Palace on the outskirts of Fatih district. Now the circle closes and we walk in the footsteps of Suleiman I, called the Magnificent. In fact, they had magnificent, the rulers of the Ottomans. In this palace and the gardens all around, with a view of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, lived for the weddings of this world power about 5000 people. The sultan's harem was also housed here, with wives, pleasure women, eunuchs and everything that has shaped our image of the Thousand and One Nights to this day. Today, as we visit the now completely used as a museum palace, I am particularly impressed by the former palace kitchen. The six giant chimneys are still there, the food in Istanbul is still the best in this region. And the good man at that time was able to satisfy even the smallest wish without paying. Not a bad life.
An anecdote remains. On the last morning, before we go back to Christmas Germany for us, we have to get out early. Our bus to the airport should leave at half past eight. When I am still in the shower, my companion is a little displeased, as one of the nice gentlemen of the kebab is already in the door with new tenants of our home - a Turkish family. Understandably, the door was closed and the lady has only a towel around, as she just came out of the bathroom. That's what I call business sense: pick up the new guests and let them in, while the old ones are getting dressed to go ...
One thing is certain: we have taken Istanbul to heart. And we will come again and be impressed - as Suleiman once did. The Magnificent.